If there is one thing I have always known about myself, it’s that I’m a terrible loser.
I have zero grace in defeat; it is victory or nothing. No soothing words, no consolation prizes — there is only shame and utter humiliation. It sounds weird to say I enjoy criticizing myself, because I don’t. There is, however, undeniable relief in dutiful self-flagellation — a necessary ritual, I think.
I don’t take failure well, and for years I believed that it was the driving force behind my success. I am afraid of failure, ergo I am motivated to not fail.
But recent events have clearly proven this theory wrong.
“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose,” according to esteemed galactic philosopher Jean Luc Picard, and I guess I really should have paid more attention to TNG as a child. A little more Picard, a little less Working Boys could have done wonders for my emotional intelligence.
It isn’t that I’ve never failed. I have, of course. Multiple times. But always there is this belief that I could have succeeded if only I had done things differently. I could have been faster, or better, or smarter.
Clearly it is naivete to assume that I have absolute control over all outcomes. (You can call it narcissism instead, if you’re feeling less generous.)
The problem is that despite all evidence to the contrary, my internal logic operates on the assumption that I am in control.
I have boundless confidence in my abilities; I can do absolutely anything with just hard work and determination. The inverse, unfortunately, is that every failure feels devastatingly personal.
Every stumble, every mistake is the consequence of my weakness, my stupidity. I fail because I am lacking, because I am not enough.
But what I’m realizing now (rather belatedly) is that the universe operates on its own fucked up logic, where you can do everything right and still fail. It’s not always a question of “faster,” or “better,” or “smarter”. There’s just doing what you can and accepting that sometimes, things are out of your hands.
As much as I’d like to be omnipotent, I clearly am not, and so much of my anxiety is tied to this obsession with being in control of everything that goes on in my life. It seems so goddamn stupid, seeing it laid out like this in actual words, but that’s how I’ve lived for the past 30 odd years and change isn’t really my strongest suit.
So I’ve been taking it slow, allowing myself to warm up to the idea that failure happens whether I allow it to or not.
I have to know, despite feeling to the contrary, that losing does not diminish me as a person. I’m still me, just maybe with a couple more bruises than usual.
“It’s okay,” I tell myself.
I’ll believe it eventually.